Those of you who are regular readers may recall that I reviewed several Night Star shake flashlights from Applied Innovative Technologies several years ago. I still have those NightStars and am happy to report that they all continue to work (in spite of my now 2+ year old grandson who has claimed one as his).
AIT is back with another winner but this time with a bit of a twist (pun intended). Instead of another shake type flashlight, they came up with a couple of new models and put a crank on them…..the LightStorm CL1 and LightStorm SL1. For those of you that never considered yourself the shaky type, don’t worry…..now you have an alternative…..you can be cranky.
The LightStorm CL1 and SL1 are very much the same but yet quite different. They both share a hand cranked power source. 2 minutes spent on the rotating handle will charge the capacitor energy cell. Give it another 30~45 seconds worth on the crank after 10 minutes of use and you are good to go again. Unlike many (all other?) crank flashlights, the NightStorms do not use rechargeable batteries for energy storage. They use the time proven storage capacitors that have been used year after year in the NightStar shake flashlights. I believe AIT’s decision to not use rechargeable batteries was a good one. My personal experience with rechargeables is that they like to be used (as in daily) and not left on the closet shelf or in a glove box for months on end and then pressed into use during an emergency. They seem to go dead all too often in those situations.
So let’s take a look at the LightStorm SL1 and see what it is all about.
The LightStorm SL1 would be the Swiss Army Knife of crank flashlights if there were such a thing. It provides both spot and flood lighting from two of the three positions of the power switch. The spot light uses a Quasar 1/2 watt LED which projects a pretty darn good beam of light, in my opinion. Three StarCore LEDs are used for the flood light function. A third switch position enables three red flashing LEDs for emergency signaling. You literally have three flashlights in one. I was very impressed with the intensity of the spot light. How AIT gets that much power out of a storage capacitor is beyond me…..all I know is that it works.
Around the outer body of the SL1 are the charging jack (more on that later), charging LED, and power switch. As previously mentioned, the switch is 3 positions (plus OFF) that controls the spot, flood, and red flashing LED modes of the flashlight. I found it easy to manipulate. As the crank is turned, the charging LED is illuminated giving you visual feedback that your efforts are producing the desired results. That bright yellow strip is luminescent and glows for several hours after being exposed to a bright light source…..a nice feature to have as you reach for the light in the middle of the night in your tent or bedroom.
The back side of the SL1 provides a recessed area for the generator crank to fold nicely out of the way. The SL1 has a folding handle that can be held in the hand or used to prop the light up at an angle, such as when sitting the light on the ground and aiming it upwards to illuminate your flat tire at 1:30 AM (oh what fun!). The handle also provides a home for a recessed hook that allows the light to be hung. Here is an idea…with Christmas coming up soon, you can use the hook and with the power switch in the red flashing LED mode, you’ve got one heck of a snappy looking tree ornament. <grin again> But seriously, I could easily see it being hooked into one of the many holes in the bottom side of my Jeep’s hood while I work on a engine related trail fix long after the sun has set….or hung from a rope in camp or on a tent guy line.
As if all this wasn’t enough, there is yet one more neat trick built into the SL1. The back of the light has three magnets embedded in it that allows the light to be attached to any ferrous metal surface. While you won’t have any luck on your fiberglass Corvette, it will certainly stick to almost any place on my Jeep. (ok, it won’t do very well on the canvas soft top but then again, I always have the steel roll bar)
LightStorm CL1 & SL1 Crank Flashlights
OK…..so if the bagel shape of the SL1 isn’t what you want in a crank flashlight, let’s take a look at the LightStorm CL1.
The CL1 as a few less LEDs in it and so plays more the roll of just a flashlight (and that is not really such a bad thing). The lower pair of StarCore LEDs provide a very well dispersed flood light. The same power switch also controls a very bright spotlight which uses the same type Quasar 1/2 watt LED as in the SL1. The well designed parabolic reflector really does a great job of focusing every bit of light coming from the Quasar LED. Don’t make the mistake of looking into it after charging it…..you won’t have your night vision back for 30 minutes.
The crank handle on the CL1 also folds neatly into the recessed area on the back of the flashlight. I found the CL1 easier to crank due to the longer handle. A green charging LED (with the yellow circle around it) is located near the charging handle and is easy to see when charging the flashlight. A wrist strap comes attached to the flashlight.
Like the SL1, a charging jack is included in the LightStorm CL1. Both flashlights come with a 2 foot long charging cable that has an interchangeable power adapter. Extra adapters are sold separately (for a very reasonable price, in my opinion).
Does the SL1 and CL1 work for charging your cell phone? I can answer that with a resounding YES! That is my Motorola cell phone connected to the USB power adapter which just happens to be supplied with both flashlights. The AIT web site has a handfull of other power adapters for various cell phones. It was pretty cool…..plug in the cable and start cranking. When I did, the LCD panel on my phone lit up and indicated it was in charging mode.
Now you may ask what good is there in really being able to charge your cell phone in this fashion? Well, a couple of years ago a camper/hiker got lost here in Arizona. While trying to find a reliable cell phone signal so she could call for help, she ran her cell phone battery down to nothing. Later that day, she decided to build a signal fire to summon help and in doing so, started a blaze that ultimately resulted in burning several hundred thousand acres of forest land. Need another reason?
Both the SL1 and CL1 flashlights are water resistant (always a good thing for camping or emergency situations) and are diesel fuel and motor oil resistant too. Along with the Swiss Army Knife pile of features, it is obvious that the LightStorm SL1 would be very much at home in your vehicle’s emergency road kit. You do have an emergency road kit in your car or truck, right?
Both flashlights are designed to operate over a much wider temperature range that what I would ever want to experience, that being -50F up to +140F. If you are counting your pounds and ounces for camping or hiking, don’t worry. You’ll be happy to know that the CL1 weighs a bit over 7 ounces while the SL1 weighs less than 9 ounces. Getting rid of those batteries (and spare batteries) does make a notable difference when you are watching the weight of your backpack.
As I was writing the last couple of paragraphs, I started thinking about which flashlight I would want if I could pick only one. I’ll tell you what…..it isn’t any easy choice. I’m including in this decision the time proven NightStar flashlights as well. The NightStars are prime candidates for selection since they as so simple in their design. The less parts, the less possibility of failure. On the other hand, the ease of use of the crank types make either of them a very good candidate. While I didn’t have a good way to measure the crank flashlights light output, my uncalibrated eyeball indicates they cast a brighter light. In an emergency, more light is always better. Excuse while I kick this decision around a bit…….
So, after having just raided the kitchen (a fresh batch of holiday cookies has appeared there since yesterday), I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t manage with just one flashlight. The versatility of the SL1 can’t be beat….3 different light modes plus the ability to charge my cell phone (or even my MP3 player). Having one is a no brainer, in my opinion. And I have to toss in one of the previously reviewed NightStars because they simply last…..no moving parts to wear out…..they hold the line as far as ultimate dependability is concerned.
As some of you know, I also enjoy the shooting sports (hence the firearms section on the web site). We have a saying in the firearms training arena…..two is one and one is none. This concept holds true in so many things where you find yourself depending on something. Simply put, if you have just one, and it fails, you have none. Having a backup is a no-brainer practice. When it comes to saving a life or surviving an emergency, how could you justify anything less?